Tea Tonic

tea

I’ve certainly written a lot about tea and coffee here on the Gainesville Apartment Guide Blog. I’ve grown up in a family of caffeine consumers and (to be completely honest) total tea snobs. Memories of my parents’ house frequently include a kettle whistling in the distance due to my dad’s hot tea habit. More recently during my trip to Taiwan, I had the privilege of trying many types of tea locally grown in the area I visited – some types I’d never had before, including Taiwan’s most expensive tea ($300 a pound!). So the fascination and exploration continues every year as I try new teas and savor old favorites.

I’ve learned if you’re into tea, there really is one for any occasion or mood. To me, this is the perfect time of year to enjoy a hot drink like tea. Tea of course is delicious when iced, but in my humble opinion the best way to consume it is hot. I’m also a bit of a tea purist. It’s only lately that I’ve been allowing a few herbal kinds to slip into my routine amongst the more regimented list. But with an abundance of kinds, there is a tea for any mood. Here are some thoughts on when and how to take your tea-

When I’m still convincing myself to get ready in the morning – breakfast teas are strong blends of black, typically Indian, teas. They also usually have some citrus oils added in which gives them a slightly sweet smell. The high octane boost from a caffeine-rich breakfast blend, like Scottish breakfast tea (try Taylor’s of Harrogate for an economical but very good blend) can easily perk you up on a dreary morning. Breakfast blends are good with a tiny bit of sugar in them, but I typically take them black. They also pair especially well with sweet foods for breakfast, which is always a plus!

When I want to stop and think – I love jasmine teas because of the amazing aroma. If you’re a fan of green tea and haven’t tried jasmine, it’s worth a try. You can also find black jasmine teas, but they are slightly less popular. Jasmine tea is delicate and stimulating, making it a great tea for relaxing or meditating. I like to enjoy jasmine tea in the afternoon or evening. I don’t recommend putting any sugar in these unless you’re making it iced (and even then not so much).

When I want tea at night but not to be up all night – This breaks the mold a little bit, because it’s not actually tea. Rooibos is made from the bark of a bush which originates in South Africa. It tastes remarkably tea-like but contains no caffeine at all, making it a great late-night substitute for tea drinkers who also value their sleep. I like the chai flavored variety of rooibos, which is extra tasty with milk in it.

 

Eating Organic and Local Foods in Gainesville

berries

The health benefits to eating organically grown food, without pesticides, are reason enough to switch from your regular grocery store crops to a safer, pesticide-free alternative. But in addition to this, organic produce also typically tastes better. It’s true that it’s more important to buy certain types of produce from organic growers (the “dirty dozen”) while others are not as dangerous, but overall you will be getting a better and healthier product (as well as locally grown) from the organic farms in your area.

So, when you’re shopping, where can you get all this awesome produce? Some grocery stores stock local organic produce. Most grocery stores at least have an organic section, whether it be local or not. You can also go to local farmer’s markets to find locally sourced produce, flowers, and other natural ingredients.

This list includes farmer’s markets all across the state of Florida, divided by county.  

An alternative to shopping at the farmer’s markets alone is joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) program. When you sign up for a CSA, you pledge to work a certain amount in the garden or on the farm and in return you are provided with compensation through fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Both Swallowtail Farm in Alachua and The Family Garden in Gainesville have CSA programs you can join. This is great if you are on a budget, but have a little bit of extra time to dedicate to helping out.

Gainesville Brewery Tour

brewery

In case you somehow haven’t noticed, craft beer is a booming business. Large national chains are losing favor with the populus, especially Millennials, and small local breweries are on the rise. You won’t hear any complaints from me about this because I’ve been a fan of sourcing things locally for years – and beer is no exception here. If you enjoy a good beer for the flavor more than the eventual effect, then you’re in the right place because Gainesville has several burgeoning breweries complete with great beer and a fun atmosphere for you and your friends to enjoy on a nice spring evening.

Swamp Head Brewery was founded in 2008 and strives not only to brew great beer, but to be an environmentally conscious and sustainable brewery. Hang out at the brewery for a tasting, a food truck dinner and a drink, or come for the special events. They boast a large range of all-year-round beers, seasonal beers, and rarer releases which you can read all about on their website, swamphead.com

First Magnitude Brewery is located a little bit east of the University of Florida and comes complete with an indoor beer tasting room as well as an outdoor beer garden. Try one of their 18 taps of beers and ciders in a glass with their cute little mermaid logo on it. Fmbrewing.com

Tall Paul’s Brewpub / Alligator Brewing Co. has been serving up local beers and cocktails for 5 years now. The Alligator Brewing Co. is part of Tall Paul’s, which also offers other locally crafted beers as well. Come for the beer and the events, as well as the games (tabletop shuffleboard!). alligatorbrewing.com

Cooking For One

bowl

If you live in your apartment alone, why is it so ridiculously difficult to cook a good meal for just yourself? I know the reasons why I mainly subsist on a diet of grilled cheese and potato chips when I live alone. I don’t feel very motivated to cook myself a fancy meal because I don’t really care if I know how to cook something impressive or not and there’s nobody else to see me cramming my face with junk food. Aside from that, I get tired of eating the same things for weeks because the leftovers seem to never end. Also…I’m a little lazy.

So if you feel similarly and you want to start eating something other than Hot Pockets for dinner, here are some ways to thwart the boring single-person meal dilemmas-

Shop for ingredients that you can make a lot of different meals out of. It’s like a capsule wardrobe for your pantry- the more versatile your ingredients, the more likely you won’t get tired of what you have.

Embrace the freezer. If you make a recipe and it makes too much for a few meals’ worth, pack up the leftovers and freeze them. Remember to put the date on top so it doesn’t become a mystery meal left in there.

Take your neighbors some food. It’s less economical than saving it all for yourself, but if you really have too much food, share it!

Shop bulk items because you don’t have to buy a whole box of something. You can purchase by the ounce or pound and get just as much as you need, which will save it from going bad later.

Make mug cakes for dessert in the microwave instead of making a big batch of something. There are tons of great recipes for them!

 

Time for Tea!

time for teak

In my book, it’s always time for tea…especially hot tea. For those who aren’t completely tea crazed and indefinitely hooked like myself, fall and winter provide the perfect reason for a hot drink, even though it doesn’t get unbearably cold in Gainesville. Regardless of that, tea simply seems to fit the season, in which warmth and coziness is embraced so we can try to forget the fact that it’s not comfortable to lounge in the pool with a drink in hand.

One of the compelling arguments for drinking tea is the long list of health benefits. This being said, if you like your tea’s taste to rival hummingbird nectar, the sugar in your tea may outweigh the good aspects. Without sugar or with a small amount, black and green teas have been found to provide a number of positive contributions to a person’s health. Time Magazine lists tea as: improving muscle endurance, improving heart health and possibly help prevent heart attacks, reducing the risk of certain cancers through the high amount of antioxidants found in tea, hydrating the body, and possibly increasing bone density.

That being said (and since you are now completely sold on the idea of sipping tea), Here is a breakdown of types of tea. All teas from actual tea leaves (not herbal teas) come from the plant Camellia Sinensis.    

Black – black tea goes through a full oxidation process, removing all the water from the leaves and incorporating the most oxygen. Black teas are fuller in flavor and higher in their percentage of caffeine. Black tea is what your sweet tea is made with, but many black tea blends make a robust and delicious cup of hot tea. Steep 3-5 min.

Green – green tea undergoes only a partial oxidation and then the leaves are heated to stop the process. Green teas are less robust in flavor and have less caffeine. Usually they have a more earthy flavor. Steep 2-3 min.

White – white teas are made from the youngest parts of the tea plant and are not oxidized at all. White tea has a delicate and subtle flavor. Steep 1-3 min.

Oolong – it is oxidized an amount which is between green and black teas and has a floral, earthy fragrance, and smooth flavor. Steep 3-5 min.

Now that you know more than you ever wanted to about tea, you can go try them all and see which you prefer with your November routine. If you’re feeling adventurous, try this homemade chai tea (spiced black tea) recipe.

Added bonus: if you use loose leaf tea, you can learn to read your tea leaves.

reading tea leaves

(photo credits: nocturnalaurora.tumblr.com, harrypotter.wikia.com, information on tea from teasource.com)

Eating In: Dining in a Small Apartment

Chrissy

Do you have a designated dining area in your apartment? Many small apartments squish kitchens and living rooms together, leaving little space specified for a real place to sit down and enjoy a meal. I’m guilty of frequently eating at the kitchen counter, standing up, which isn’t exactly ideal when you have company eating with you. So I’ve been plotting for a while how to squeeze a dining area into my little home and these are some of the solutions I’ve found for this apartment conundrum:

You don’t have to use real dining furniture. Odds and ends provide excellent character when combined to create an eclectic dining set, so don’t be afraid to use what you have or what you can find cheaply at the thrift store. Patio furniture, like bistro tables, are great for a small dining space, too. Square or rectangular tables with straight edges are easy to push against the wall to minimize the amount of space used, but small round tables can be pushed into corners and also add a great deal of visual appeal.

Consider using a folding table. If you’re really short on space, collapsible furniture is your best friend. You may not want to bust it out every time you eat, but if you’re having company it can be the perfect solution.

Tables with leaves are optimal if you want to entertain. Select-a-size is the way to go if you plan on hosting a group of people instead of mainly feeding yourself at home.

Add a chandelier or pendant light to pull it together. If you’re going the permanent furniture route, a great way to tie everything together is to mount a hanging light fixture above. This one little thing will magically make your dining space look complete.

 

(photo credit: tvland.tumblr.com)

A Healthier Pumpkin Spice Latte

pumpkin latte

It’s understandable why the pumpkin spice trend is so phenomenally huge – that stuff is downright tasty and seems to completely embody all aspects of Autumn. It’s a hot drink, full of pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon and cloves, it’s covered in whipped cream, and it has the obligatory shot of espresso to keep all of humanity chugging along. What isn’t to love? I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but unfortunately the beloved Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte should not be indulged in as regularly as most people like. Here’s why:

A standard (whole milk, whipped cream, the works) Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks contains 420 calories. It’s not simply the calories that make this drink something that should be consumed more in moderation, though. A Grande PSL also contains 50 grams of sugar, which is quite the dose for anyone.

Thankfully as of this year, Starbucks has re-released the Pumpkin Spice Latte. According to abcnews.com it is now made without its former artificial coloring and Starbucks has also added real pumpkin puree to the mix. This is a great improvement, however if you still want to make a healthier version and save yourself a lot of money at the same time, try one of these recipes:

The Kitchn’s Pumpkin Spice Latte

Unwritten’s Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte Alternatives

 

(photo credit: autumncozy.tumblr.com)

PDQ

Got a craving for chicken? One of Gainesville’s newest restaurants, PDQ, may be just the place for you. Located at 3403 W University Ave, PDQ emphasizes that their fresh, juicy chicken is unlike any other in town. You can get their chicken tenders crispy or grilled with any of their seven homemade sauces. Not in the mood for chicken tenders? Try one of their sandwiches from grilled turkey breast to spicy buffalo. On top of that, if you really wanted to stick to the healthier side, pick any of their hand-tossed salads that will be sure to please. Open every day from 10:30 am to 10:30 pm, stop on by to get your chicken tender on!

PDQ Website 

Tatu Sushi

If you have a craving for something Eastern, Tatu Sushi at 1702 W. University Ave, in Gainesville is a perfect place to have an amazing Asian meal. Whether you are in the mood for a light salad or a filling entrée, you will find it at Tatu Sushi. Tatu’s menu includes cucumber pasta, seaweed salad, pad-Thai, spicy seafood noodle soup, chicken teriyaki, salmon steak, sushi rolls, edamame and so much more, all nicely priced so you can have a delightful night out with a price that won’t break the bank. Open from 11 am to 10 pm Monday through Friday and 5 pm to 10pm on Saturday and Sunday. Stop by for a meal and a sake bomb at Tatu Sushi soon!

Check out more about Tatu Sushi here.

 

Mac’s Drive -Thru

You won’t find a burger for cheaper in all of Gainesville than you will at Mac’s Drive-Thru. Located at 129 NW, 10th Avenue, in Gainesville, you’ll soon discover that Mac’s just might be another one of Gainesville’s hidden gems, with prices that just can’t be beat. Mac’s hamburger is just $1.49 and fries are $1.09 and you have the option of getting a fish, ham, roast beef, or Cuban sandwich, all for under $3. You can have yourself a juicy burger and fries on a budget. Open from 9 am to 6 pm on Monday through Friday, stop by to get your hand on one of their delectable burgers today.

Tip: bring cash! No credit cards accepted here.

 

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